Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: November 16, 2014

November 16, 2014 – Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Prv 31: 10-13, 19-20, 30-31; Ps 128: 1-5; 1 Thes 5: 1-6; Mt 25: 14-30

“Come share your master’s joy.” With those words the master in the Parable of the Talents, found in today’s Gospel reading from Matthew, invites his servants to join him, to be with Him in heaven. That is the primary stewardship message found in today’s readings, but each of the readings provides insights into what is truly important, or at least what should be crucial in our lives and in how we live them.

As we hear it and assimilate it, the first reading from Proverbs may seem very unlike the Gospel, but there is an implication within the reading which we frequently miss. The covert meaning of this scriptural passage is found in the statement, “Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting.” The true challenge to us in living Christian lives of stewardship is to determine what is truly significant in relation to our lives. In this instance the reference is to the ideal for a wife. That model woman has as her most noteworthy component virtue. A virtuous and good woman is rewarded in the same way as the faithful stewards in the Gospel. She is to be “praised” and given a “reward.” Being able to separate this mental appreciation from an emotional one is difficult, and that is one of the many struggles we face in living lives of stewardship.

Thessalonica was the capital city of the Roman Province of Macedonia. Saint Paul traveled there after he was ousted from Philippi. Paul was in Philippi for only three days, but he was in Thessalonica for a much longer time. In fact, we know that he was there for at least three weeks and probably longer, as he makes reference to preaching there on three successive Sabbath days. He uses a phrase in today’s second reading, “…the day of the Lord will come like a thief at night,” which has a meaning parallel to the message in the first reading. Jesus made it clear that there was no way we could anticipate nor know when He would come again (“…that day and hour no one knows.” Matthew 24:36). Paul’s point to the Thessalonians and to us is that we must be prepared. That is not easy for us when we are caught up in the day to day burdens and tasks of our lives, but pursuing a life of stewardship is one of the means by which we can be prepared. Stewardship is a God-centered way of living. It calls for us to be aware and grateful every minute of every day. Through prayer and a planned way of living we are constantly renewed and brought back to what should be most important.

Saint Paul goes on to write of darkness and light. Darkness is when we live in sin, when we do not accept nor recognize the constant presence (and strengthening support) of God. Are we like the Thessalonians to whom Paul refers, “…all of you are children of the light,” or do we stray from what should be the real purpose of our lives — to experience rebirth and conversion over and over so that we are truly prepared for that time which none of us can know.

Depending upon definition Jesus shared roughly 40 parables with us. Of those more than half address the issue of possessions and finances. It was not that the Lord had great interest in those, but He knew that we do, and that it was an issue to which we could relate. Today’s Gospel includes the Parable of the Talents. A “talent” in this instance is not a skill or ability, but a unit of money — in fact, a large amount of money. Jesus was fond of referring to the master or the father in His parables, and that was a direct reference to God. In this parable the master provides three servants, three stewards, with varying amounts. It is the same for us; each of us has been given varying amounts of gifts for which we are responsible. Stewardship of those gifts is how we use them, and especially how we use them to serve God, to help build His Kingdom.

Just as in the first two readings, it is clear that we have a choice. The two stewards who are rewarded with places in the Kingdom of God (“Come share your master’s joy.”) do not neglect their gifts. They develop them and return them with increase to the master, to the Lord. Stewardship calls us to do the same thing.

Posted in Homily Guides, Stewardship Reflections on Lectionary Readings

Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: November 16, 2014

November 16, 2014 – Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Prv 31: 10-13, 19-20, 30-31; Ps 128: 1-5; 1 Thes 5: 1-6; Mt 25: 14-30

“Well done my good and faithful servant.” With those words the master in Jesus’ Parable of the Talents smiles and rewards his servant. We often cite the Parable of the Talents in relation to stewardship. Because of our understanding of “talent,” we may assume that this is a parable about skills and those kinds of gifts.

Of course, in this case, a “talent” is a unit of money. Scholars assume that the master is wealthy; therefore, whether one received five talents, two talents, or one talent, they most likely received a huge amount of money according to our standards. That is not the stewardship perspective of this parable. Each of us, just as the three servants in the parable, has received multiple gifts from God (the Master). The question posed by Jesus, and the question we must be prepared to answer at our own judgment, is “What have you done with the gifts you have received?”

Everything we have and everything we become are gifts from God. Like the stewards in the parable, we have been given gifts. Do we develop those gifts and do we share them, or do we “bury” them and really do nothing with them? Those who do the former, return them with increase to the Lord, are not only complimented, but embraced and invited: “Come share your master’s joy.”

Posted in Stewardship Bulletin Reflections

Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: November 9, 2014

November 9, 2014 – Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome
Ez 47: 1-2, 8-9, 12; Ps 46: 2-3, 5-6, 8-9; 1 Cor 3: 9C-11, 16-17; Jn 2: 13-22

“Brothers and Sisters…Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the spirit of God dwells in you?” With those words St. Paul connects the temple found in the first reading to each of us. Today is the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome. It may seem unusual to celebrate a Feast commemorating a church building, but the Lateran Basilica is more than just a building to us Catholics.

The Basilica of St. John Lateran is the cathedral of Rome. This is not St. Peter’s at the Vatican, but it is the Pope’s cathedral. It was built in the time of the Emperor Constantine and was consecrated by Pope Sylvester in 324. Almost 1,700 years old, it was the baptism church of ancient Rome. In 313 Constantine issued an edict which granted Christians the freedom to practice their religion. St. John Lateran was built on the exact spot where Constantine had a vision leading him to issue that edict. For that reason alone this Feast is worthy of our celebration.

However, as you might expect, the readings for this Feast Day speak to churches and buildings and then, as indicated above, St. Paul associates those to us personally. In the Word of God a temple of stones becomes a living Church to us with Jesus as the foundation and the cornerstone. Our churches are more than just places of worship. They represent an order and structure to our Church which enhances our relationship to Christ. Pope Benedict XVI put it this way: “My friends, today’s feast celebrates a mystery that is always relevant: God’s desire to build a spiritual temple in the world, a community that worships Him in spirit and truth.”

Many Gospel scholars conclude that the waters running from the temple in the first reading represent the Gospel of Christ which went forth and spread throughout the world. The volume of the waters increases as they flow, even though there is no indication of tributaries or other waters flowing into them. We, as stewards of the word, are to take these living waters and to spread them everywhere we go as disciples.

In the second reading St. Paul declares to the Corinthians that in Corinth he, Paul, laid a foundation. That foundation, of course, is Jesus Christ, and it is on that foundation that the church is built. However, Paul cautions the Corinthians to “be careful” how they build on that foundation. Furthermore Paul reminds them that the temple is not just the building in which they worship, but he also speaks to each individual, and each of us, in writing, “…you are the temple of God and…the Spirit of God dwells in you.” Paul places the concept of temple on three levels: the building, the community, and each individual member. Stewardship calls us to keep in mind all of those as we are the stewards of our churches, our faith communities, and our individual lives.

The Gospel from John is a passage that is likely familiar to many. Jesus visits the temple and is upset by what is going on in the plaza outside, filled with vendors and money changers. Following His reaction to what He found, and after He “drove them all out of the temple area,” the Lord was asked, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Of course, His answer to that is one that we may know but we may not always understand it. Jesus said “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” John explains that those who heard this answer were confused because the temple had been under construction for decades and how could it be rebuilt in three days? “But he was speaking about the temple of his body.”

Just as Paul describes more than one temple, the Lord does as well. Jesus knew of His death and resurrection. The Lord knew that His body could not be destroyed. The message to us is that our temples, our bodies, cannot be destroyed either if we become disciples of the Lord and commit to following Him, commit to living lives of stewardship, serving God, our Church, and one another.

Posted in Homily Guides, Stewardship Reflections on Lectionary Readings

Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: November 9, 2014

November 9, 2014 – Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome
Ez 47: 1-2, 8-9, 12; Ps 46: 2-3, 5-6, 8-9; 1 Cor 3: 9C-11, 16-17; Jn 2: 13-22

As today is the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome, each of the readings relates in some way to churches — the buildings in which we worship. The Lateran Basilica is the official Church of Rome and the Pope, not St. Peter with which we tend to associate the Vatican.

The first reading from Ezekiel speaks of the temple and the holy, living waters which flow from it. Ezekiel 47 reminds us that what occurs inside the church building is incredibly important, the Eucharist, called in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the “source and summit of our Christian life.”

Churches and holy waters are a principal part of our Catholic faith. We enter the church through Baptism, and as we enter our Catholic churches, we find holy water to remind us of that Baptism and to prompt us to remember that we are in a holy place, a place where we gather as a community, united as the Body of Christ. We are the stewards of this church, this holy place where we can disregard the burdens of the world and join together to receive the life giving waters of the Word and the Eucharist. Yes, we are the church, but there is more to it than that. As Paul wrote to the Ephesians: “In him you are also being built together into a dwelling place for God.”

Posted in Stewardship Bulletin Reflections

Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: November 2, 2014

November 2, 2014 – The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls)
Wis 3: 1-9; Ps 23: 1-6; Rom 5: 5-11; Jn 6: 37-40

All Souls Day on Nov. 2 is a day when we pray for deceased souls. These prayers may be general in nature or they may involve specific members of our families and our faith communities, including perhaps physically visiting the graves of our family members.

On All Saints Day, we acknowledge the presence of those who have departed this life. Today, we recognize and honor them to an even greater extent. To practice stewardship completely we need to be aware of our personal families and our faith families. Just prior to today’s Gospel reading Jesus reminds us that “I am the bread of life.” Seven times in Holy Scripture, Jesus states, “I am…” followed by various statements which allow us to grasp more fully what He is and what He has done for us.

Bread is considered one of those essentials “for life.” Jesus is reminding us that He is essential for life, for eternal life. Jesus is not speaking of the physical life on this earth, but about “eternal life.” It is that hope which allows us to trust in Him by living stewardship. This past June at Mass, Pope Francis said, “He Himself is the living bread that gives life to the world.” Let us embrace that hope.

Posted in Stewardship Bulletin Reflections

Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: November 2, 2014

November 2, 2014 – The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls)
Wis 3: 1-9; Ps 23: 1-6; Rom 5: 5-11; Jn 6: 37-40

“Hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5) With those words St. Paul begins his message to the Romans in the second reading. As we commemorate All Souls Day, the implication of all the readings can be condensed into one word: Hope.

As might be expected on All Souls Day, the readings deal not just with the hope of the fulfillment of Christ’s promise to us, but also with our firm belief in and grasp of eternal life. The Book of Wisdom, although attributed to Solomon, was written only fifty years before the birth of Christ according to most scholars and historians. Our first reading from the third chapter is one which is often used as part of funeral liturgies. It begins with “The souls of the just are in the hands of God.” This insight is a vital part of our view of stewardship — that is, all comes from God and all goes through God. God is in control of everything in our lives and by conceding that, we are better able to live God-centered lives.

It is also worth noting that in the middle of this reading is this statement: “yet is their hope full of immortality.” Of course, this speaks to the hope to which we made reference, but it is also essential to know this is the first time the word “immortality” appears in the entire Bible. Our hope in the Lord is completely connected to our belief in everlasting life.

As mentioned at the opening of this reflection, St. Paul greets the Romans in today’s second reading with the assurance that “Hope does not disappoint.” By knowing how much God loves us and by being aware of His promises to us, we are able to maintain and sustain the hope which should bring us comfort always. Notice that God’s love does not slowly drip into us; it is “poured into our hearts.” To accept salvation, to accept what Christ did for us, we must also realize that we are sinners. This is an important point which Paul makes to us in this reading from Romans. Paul spent the majority of this letter leading up to this point by explaining to us and reminding us that we are the “ungodly” people to whom he makes reference. Comprehending this is what fills us with hope, and living our lives in stewardship for the tremendous gift of this is what fulfills us.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus completes the indication of immortality found in the first reading. The Lord says, “everyone who sees the son and believes in him may have eternal life.” When we say, “Our hope is in the Lord,” this is exactly what we mean. When we are hungry, we know that food will solve the problem. However, we are speaking of a spiritual hunger here. Our lives are filled with times of despair, and perhaps sadness. It is this hope in the promise of Christ, our hope in salvation and eternal lives of joy with the Lord that allow us to live with a positive outlook on life. Stewardship is a positive way of approaching life. The stewardship way of life is filled with hope, and thus can be filled with joy.

Posted in Homily Guides, Stewardship Reflections on Lectionary Readings

Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: October 26, 2014

October 26, 2014 – Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Ex 22: 20-26; Ps 18: 2-4, 47, 51; 1 Thes 1: 5C-10; Mt 22: 34-40

“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” That is a relatively comprehensive statement on what each of us must do before we do anything else. It is called by many the prime commandment. This is a commandment which the Lord wants us to make genuine and true in relationship to how we live. Through stewardship our concentration needs to always be on God and what that means.

The readings on this Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time refer to conversion, commitment, and service, all key elements of what we know as stewardship. The first reading from Exodus speaks of how we should treat others, just as the Gospel of Matthew does. We are called to regard with great compassion those who might be perceived as poor or weak. Scripture often makes reference to how we treat widows and orphans. However, even before the admonition as to how we treat those vulnerable people, we are asked to consider how we treat “strangers.” Scripture uses the word “aliens,” but it is really calling us to consider how we approach and behave toward those new or different among us, strangers and visitors. Hospitality is one of the pillars of good stewardship, and our attitude toward these “strangers” is indicative of our outlook and of what Jesus calls our love of our neighbors.

There is a popular hymn in which the refrain is “The Lord Hears the Cry of the Poor.” That is what this first reading is all about. God has a particular love and care for the poor. We must not forget that in many ways Jesus and His family were poor, according to the standards of that time. When they visit the Temple for Jesus’ dedication, their offering is two birds, which was considered the offering of a poor family (Luke 2:24).

St. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians makes reference to the power of conversion. Paul refers to the strength of the Word, making it clear that it should not be just words to us, but something much deeper, something which brings us to conversion, just as it did with the Thessalonians. Paul explains to the Thessalonians that they are “examples.” Each of us is called to be an example as well. Paul was an example to those in Thessalonica; they in turn were an example to the people of Macedonia and Achaia. Jesus calls each of us to be examples to others, examples of love and stewardship. This is the ultimate form of evangelization.

The two great commandments expounded by Jesus in the Gospel might be considered as the foundational pieces of advice to us as to how we can best be Christians and live Christian lives. Loving God is very straightforward, but it is not easy. Loving our neighbor means much more than having regard for those who live next door or in our area. Jesus felt that everyone, absolutely everyone throughout the world, was truly our neighbor. The Lord correctly understood that being somewhat selfish and self-centered and seeing the world only on a local level was a natural state for many of us. Jesus, as well as the concept of stewardship, calls us to a higher plane, a more advanced perception of life and living. To be a disciple of Jesus Christ, to be His follower, we must humbly place others in preference to our own interests. On paper, it may seem simple, but we know it is much more complex and difficult: all we have to do is love God and love all others. That is what we must do.

Posted in Homily Guides, Stewardship Reflections on Lectionary Readings

Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: October 26, 2014

October 26, 2014 – Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Ex 22: 20-26; Ps 18: 2-4, 47, 51; 1 Thes 1: 5C-10; Mt 22: 34-40

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” Jesus advises the Pharisees and others who are listening to Him. This was in answer to a “trick” question posed to him by a lawyer among the Pharisees. The questioner wanted the Lord to give a response that might appear to lessen other commandments. Instead, Jesus points out that there are some commandments from our God that are greater than our traditional Ten Commandments.

“You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” We are first called to that relationship with God, a relationship which acknowledges God’s love of us, and results in our own love of the Lord. That is where stewardship must begin with each of us — through developing a loving bond with God. However, Jesus then explains to us how we must relate to one another: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Many misinterpret Christ’s admonition to mean that we must love ourselves first. He was not saying that we must love ourselves before we love anyone else. He was saying nonetheless that our focus as stewards needs to be on serving and loving others. The good steward respects, regards, and loves others as he or she might expect to be treated. Love and stewardship are very much the same — each strives to put others before our own interests.

Posted in Stewardship Bulletin Reflections

Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: October 19, 2014

October 19, 2014 – Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is 45: 1, 4-6; Ps 96: 1-5, 7-10; 1 Thes 1: 1-5B; Mt 22: 15-21

Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.” Those are the Lord’s words in the final verse of today’s Gospel from Matthew. It is a quote (or something similar) that most of us as Catholics have heard many times. There is a definitive message from Jesus within that statement, and it applies directly to us and to our approach to life.

From God’s statement in the first reading, “There is no God besides me” to Jesus’ reminder to us in the Gospel about what is God’s and what is Caesar’s the theme of one God, one provider, one Lord runs throughout. It is not that the anointing of Cyrus and the prediction by Isaiah of who and what Cyrus would be (Isaiah wrote almost 200 years before Cyrus even came into existence) is not germane to our current theme. The basic point of the first reading is that God is firmly in control. That should be a great comfort to us, but the humbling acceptance of that fact provides challenges to us. As we have stated many times, stewardship is God-centered, and it recognizes absolutely that God is in control. God accomplishes so much already, but think what He can accomplish if those of us with faith follow Him, and seek discipleship and stewardship as a way of life.

St. Paul was very fond of the Thessalonians for many reasons. Historians and scholars and Scripture itself tell us Paul spent only three weeks in Thessalonica (Acts 17:2), scarcely time to found and establish on a firm footing a Christian community. Yet, as reports come back to Paul, he learns that the community is thriving and is firmly launched. As is regularly the case with Paul, there are subtleties included in his letter which we may miss. He writes this letter on behalf of his companions and fellow evangelists Silvanus and Timothy, but what he communicates has a stronger meaning than that. Observe how he phrases this statement: “We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our prayers.” There are three telling allusions in that sentence, built around the words “thanks” and “always” and the plurals “We and our.”

Thanks and gratitude are at the basis of stewardship and our attitude toward God. Paul confirms that thanks is something that he and his companions focus on often. In fact, they focus on it always, which means this is a consistent aspect of their thoughts and prayers. Using the plurals implies that prayer is something they do as a group as well as individuals. We, too, are called to prayer, certainly as individuals, but also as communities.

Jesus is confronted with a difficult question by the Pharisees: “Teacher… is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” If the Lord said “Yes,” it might seem as if He was denying the authority and power of God; however, if He said “No” He might be viewed as being opposed openly to Rome. His answer is completely in line with Isaiah’s point in the first reading. He acknowledges the existence of civil governments and their right to make certain demands of us. Nevertheless, He also makes it quite clear that we belong to God. We do not belong to Caesar. God is in control. God is our Father and we must be responsible to Him in everything. That is what is meant by living lives of stewardship as God-centered. Stewardship also declares that everything comes from God and everything belongs to God. The Pharisees did not understand stewardship. Do we?

Posted in Homily Guides, Stewardship Reflections on Lectionary Readings

Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: October 19, 2014

October 19, 2014 – Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is 45: 1, 4-6; Ps 96: 1-5, 7-10; 1 Thes 1: 1-5B; Mt 22: 15-21

As indicated many times previously in these reflections, it is difficult to reflect comprehensively on the totality of the readings for a particular Sunday, and it is often more effective to focus our thoughts on something smaller, although significant. Saint Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, our second reading, offers one of those insights.

Most scholars believe that the letter to the people of Thessalonica, Greece (the Thessalonians) was perhaps the first of the many letters Paul wrote. Note that in his opening greeting, Paul makes it from not just himself, but from Silvanus and Timothy as well. As successful as Paul was as an evangelist and an apostle, he recognized early on that it was not something he could do or accomplish alone.

In addition to God’s help, St. Paul gathered a team around him, which he used and empowered in many ways. Sometimes each of us may think we are more efficient operating alone. Stewardship on the other hand calls us to see that we are part of a community, and that community can accomplish more as a group than any one of us can individually. That is the strength of community stewardship, a faith-filled people working hand in hand to build the Kingdom of God. There is a Tibetan proverb which states, “If you help someone to the top of the mountain, you reach the peak also.”

Posted in Stewardship Bulletin Reflections

Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: October 12, 2014

October 12, 2014 – Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is 25: 6-10A; Ps 23: 1-6; Phil 4: 12-14, 19-20; Mt 22: 1-14

In the first reading the prophet Isaiah speaks of a feast offered by the Lord: “The Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure choice wines.” Jesus tells a parable about a feast in the Gospel of Matthew, “Behold I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready. Come to the feast.” Note that the feast is provided for all peoples. Each of us is invited. Stewardship is a response to this invitation.

The feast to which Isaiah refers might be called in Biblical terms “the Marriage Supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9). Jesus longs for this supper. At the Last Supper He states, “I tell you, from now on I shall not drink this fruit of the vine until the day that I drink it with you new in the Kingdom of my Father.” (Matthew 26: 29) The Feast about which Isaiah speaks is our salvation, that glorious moment when we are united with the Lord in Heaven.

In an indirect way St. Paul speaks of this same feast in his letter to the Philippians, our second reading. Throughout his letters Paul captures the essence of the stewardship way of life, and his comment to the Philippians is particularly apropos. Paul tells us “My God will supply whatever you need.” Of course, that is an important part of his message to the people of Philippi, but it is an important stewardship reference for us as well. Our trust in God, our understanding that God will indeed provide, and He will meet our every need, is what allows us to practice stewardship so freely. This does not mean that we merely sit back and wait for the Lord, but it does mean that we are willing to take the risk, to share freely and generously, knowing that we walk with the Lord and that He will, as Paul assures us, “meet our every need.”

The Philippians evidently had been generous to Paul and to his ministry. He acknowledges that in his letter. However, he also implies that it is equally important for them to be givers. It is reminiscent to that broad stewardship statement in Luke 6:38: “Give and it will be given to you: good measurefor with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”

Many are invited, but few are chosen.” With those words Jesus closes His Parable of the Wedding Feast in the Gospel reading from Matthew. It is only seven words, but they are words filled with meaning for us. As mentioned, God invites all, and He invites often. However, to respond to the invitation we must hear it. (“He who has ears to hear; let him hear.”) Are we among those who truly hear the call and the invitation? In lives of stewardship, God works through us, and it is this presence of God in our lives and how we live them which brings us salvation. Thus, we must first hear the call, and then we must respond to it. As Jesus said on several occasions, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Are we active followers or merely passive listeners?

Posted in Homily Guides, Stewardship Reflections on Lectionary Readings

Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: October 12, 2014

October 12, 2014 – Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is 25: 6-10A; Ps 23: 1-6; Phil 4: 12-14, 19-20; Mt 22: 1-14

If we received an invitation to a royal wedding feast, it is likely we might be flattered and make every effort to attend. Yet none of those invited by the King in today’s Parable of the Wedding Feast attend. In fact, they refuse twice and then actually mistreat those who bring the invitation.

Jesus was very careful with what He said and communicated in His parables. What then is His real message here, and how does it apply to us? Each of us has been invited to the Feast, in fact to several feasts. Mass, the Eucharist, is indeed a Feast. Yet, as we know, many do not respond to the Lord’s invitation to join Him at the table. Even those who do respond may not always keep in mind both the importance and the love behind this Feast.

God invites us in so many ways to become close to Him, to answer His invitation and to embrace stewardship as a way of life. This invitation comes to us constantly through Holy Scripture and through the Gospel. How many of us hear the Word, but then just go back to our lives as they were before? That is what is happening in this parable. Those invited ignore the invitation and continue with their lives. The key message from Jesus is that it does not matter if we respond to God’s invitation with anger or indifference; they are equally grave reactions.

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Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: October 5, 2014

October 5, 2014 – Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is 5: 1-7; Ps 80: 9, 12-16, 19-20; Phil 4: 6-9; Mt 21: 33-43

Some of the great articulators of stewardship have used the image that God has given each of us a garden, a vineyard if you will, and how we care for and share the fruits of that garden is the measure of our stewardship, our willingness to recognize our giftedness and to use those gifts to glorify God and to help others. Both the first reading and the Gospel on this 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time deal with vineyards, and St. Paul connects the two together with sage advice.

The prophet Isaiah speaks of a vineyard, which was blessed and advantaged. It was cared for by a loving owner; it was planted on fruitful soil; the seeds used were the best (“the choicest vines”); it was well protected (the watch tower); and a wine press was built in preparation for its wonderful yield. But yet it only produced wild grapes. Understand that “wild grapes” as described were bitter and poisonous. How could this happen? What does it mean? The vineyard is, of course, a reference to the fact that God gives us everything. He prepares a situation where we can produce great fruit. However, the difference is that the fruit produced is dependent upon the human will and the human effort. We must be prepared to live as the Lord wishes, to be disciples, to be good stewards if we expect our gardens to produce good fruit.

St. Paul speaks of peace toward the beginning of the Second Reading and also in the last verse. Paul often made reference to peace both as a greeting and as a farewell. For Paul there were three perspectives of peace: 1. Peace from God: this sense of peace and comfort is a gift to us from God but we must both recognize it and seek it; 2. Peace with God: this has to do with our relationship to the Lord. Do we accept Him as our companion on the journey? Are we at peace with Him?; and finally, the peace of God: this is a peace beyond our comprehension, beyond our understanding. As Paul phrases it, “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.” For us to be disciples, for us to truly produce fruits in our vineyard we must be at peace with who we are, and we absolutely have to embrace the peace of the Lord.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus shares another parable with us — the Parable of the Wicked Servants. The connection between this reading and the first reading from Isaiah is unmistakable. Through this parable Jesus makes it very clear to us that if we reject Him we can never produce the fruit the Lord expects from our garden, our vineyard. We all are familiar with Jesus’ trial during the Passion, the charges made against the Lord and His responses. At the core of all of this is the fact that it is-was not Jesus who is-was on trial. It is we. To reiterate the image of the garden and the vineyard, we need to grasp that what we do with that vineyard is our trial; it is how we are measured in our lives. To be fruitful, we must be committed and we must be working at it. God knows that stewardship is not easy. However, it is what is expected of us.

Posted in Homily Guides, Stewardship Reflections on Lectionary Readings

Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: October 5, 2014

October 5, 2014 – Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is 5: 1-7; Ps 80: 9, 12-16, 19-20; Phil 4: 6-9; Mt 21: 33-43

Throughout his letters to the various communities of faith, St. Paul offers some excellent advice. In today’s reading from his epistle to the Philippians he urges them to “have no anxiety at allthe peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Of course, we may be familiar with the adage, “easier said than done.”

St. Paul is trying to remind us that if we trust in the Lord, if we turn to the Lord regularly, if we view the Lord as our constant companion and supporter, many of the trials we face and many of the burdens we bear will be easier. People who have a consistent and faith-filled prayer life understand both what St. Paul is saying and the truth of what he says.

Two important facets of lives of stewardship are prayer and trust. Too often we may become overly self reliant, trying to carry our crosses without the help of the Lord. Develop a prayer life and awareness that Jesus is there to help, every day in every way, and the world can be a much more positive place. As St. Paul tells us in the final verse of today’s second reading if we do all of this “Then the God of peace will be with you.”

Posted in Stewardship Bulletin Reflections

Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: September 28, 2014

September 28, 2014 – Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Ez 18: 25-28: Ps 25: 4-5, 8-10, 14; Phil 2: 1-11; Mt 21: 28-32

We all know and understand that Jesus taught with parables. Depending upon how you count them, there are as many as 40 in the New Testament and most scholars believe that 23 of them are included in the Gospel of Matthew. Over the last few weeks and continuing today we have heard a series of parables proclaimed in Matthew, Chapter 21.

The Parable of the Two Sons (today’s Gospel) again presents us with what we may find a disputable conclusion, at least in terms of how we interpret things based upon our understanding of life as we know it. That parable follows the themes of God’s way versus our way and the idea of humility as an important aspect of stewardship.

Ezekiel, you may recall, was a prophet who was held captive in Babylon and wrote his prophecies between 593 and 571 B.C. The prophet takes great pains to point out to us that God is always in the right, which may mean that we are often in the wrong. Ezekiel anticipates the conflict we will feel in the parables Jesus gives us — one which reminds us over and over that God’s way is not necessarily our way. One of the basic stewardship messages we may hear consistently involves the fact that we are gifted, and the true measure of how we live is how we use those gifts to help those in need and to build our own faith communities. We must always remember nevertheless that our use of those gifts is measured on God’s terms, not ours.

St. Paul has fond feelings toward the Philippians. It was Paul who established their Christian community, and it is Paul who reminds them through his letters what he feels they must do to maintain and develop that Christian community. His message is as applicable to us today as it was to them. Paul puts it bluntly to the Philippians, “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others.” Someone once said that there is no room for egos in the stewardship way of life. Paul knew that; he knew that a community factionalized by power or control or pride could not truly be followers of Jesus. It is a question we must constantly ask ourselves: “Am I doing this for the glory it will bring me, or am I doing this because I love others?” We are called to love over and over.

Jesus knows what our motivations are. That is His point in the Parable of the Two Sons. One son refuses to go work in the vineyard, but then has second thoughts, and goes and works. The other son assures his father that he will go work in the vineyard, but then does not. Jesus asks simply, “Which of the two did his father’s will?” Of course, we, like the disciples to whom the Lord posed the question, can immediately perceive that it is the son who did work in spite of his initial refusal. The point of the parable is that God does not want “lip service” from us; He wants commitment and dedication and fulfillment. He wants us body and soul. It is how we live that will show God we love Him and that we love those around us. It is not what we say, but it is very much what we do. What we do is stewardship.

Posted in Homily Guides, Stewardship Reflections on Lectionary Readings